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2 monkeypox cases reported in Forsyth County.

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Monkeypox

Monkeypox causes fluid-filled bumps, as well as swelling of the lymph nodes.

Forsyth County has its first two confirmed cases of monkeypox, the county health department said Monday.

The department is not releasing any information about the victims, citing public-health privacy policies.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is not reporting cases by county, leaving it up to counties to report cases.

Forsyth public health officials are doing contact tracing to identity close contacts who may benefit from vaccination.

Guilford County has had at least three confirmed cases and Davidson County at least one case. About half of the cases in North Carolina have been reported in Mecklenburg County.

As of Monday, there are 138 confirmed cases in North Carolina, which is up from 122 as of Wednesday.

About 70% of the 122 confirmed monkeypox virus cases as of Wednesday in North Carolina involve Black men, but only 24% of the vaccine has gone to Black recipients, the state Department of Health and Human Services said.

DHHS plans to publish monkeypox demographic data on a weekly basis.

Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious viral illness that typically involves flu-like symptoms, swelling of the lymph nodes and a rash that includes bumps that are filled with fluid before scabbing over.

Doctors say monkeypox has thus far spread largely among gay and bisexual men and transgender people.

About 59% of the 122 cases, or 72, as of Wednesday involve men between the ages of 30 to 49, along with 37%, or 45, between ages 18 and 29 and 4%, or 5, ages 50 and older.

Vaccine disparities

DHHS said at least 3,048 people have received the vaccine.

Nearly 67% of the vaccine recipients are white, 23.6% Black and 7.5% Hispanic.

DHHS said it will continue to “educate providers and the public through multiple communication methods, engage with community partners and work with vaccine providers to close disparities.”

“… NCDHHS is working with community partners to reach North Carolinians most at risk for getting monkeypox,” the agency said.

The vaccine requires two doses, and it takes 14 days after getting the second dose of Jynneos to reach maximum protection.

People who have already been exposed to monkeypox but do not have symptoms can be vaccinated to prevent illness or lead to milder symptoms if given within 14 days after exposure.

“It’s important to remember that anyone in any group of people can get monkeypox, which spreads mostly through prolonged skin-to-skin contact,” state Health Secretary Kody Kinsley said in a statement.

“Partnering together to prioritize vaccine for the individuals currently most impacted by the virus will provide relief for that community and help control further spread of the outbreak.”

DHHS is working with the federal government and local health departments and clinics to implement changes announced this week by the Food and Drug Administration, which could allow the number of available doses to increase by as much as five-fold while continuing to ensure the vaccine meets high standards for safety and quality.

A local infectious diseases expert cautioned this month that monkeypox has the potential to spread beyond the communities that have been hardest hit so far.

“This is not a disease that will just stay in just one particular group in our community,” said Dr. David Priest with Novant Health Inc.

“This is a community problem for all of us, so while we’re targeting particular groups with these (treatment) resources right now, we have to prepare to have those resources available more broadly as supplies of the vaccine increase.”

Priest said an increase in monkeypox cases is likely to continue for weeks and months ahead, “although it won’t be uncontrolled, wild case growth like we saw with COVID.”

“We may get to a situation where it becomes endemic in the population, and we have to deal with it periodically,” he said.

Who’s eligible?

Free vaccine is available for people who have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with monkeypox in the past 14 days; men who have sex with men; and transgender individuals who have had multiple partners in the last 14 days in an area where the virus is spreading.

Also now eligible are gay or bisexual men or transgender individuals who report any of the following in the last 90 days:

  • Having multiple sex partners or anonymous sex
  • Being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection
  • Receiving medications to prevent HIV infection (PrEP).

Health care experts say that monkeypox has not led to significant hospitalizations or deaths.

“This particular strain of monkeypox, thankfully, has not ... caused many deaths, and we have not seen a death in our healthcare system and we have not hospitalized a patient with monkeypox,” Priest said. “Most of the cases in our system have been milder clinically, and people have been able to recover at home.

“It doesn’t mean that people can’t have severe symptoms, with skin lesions that can be very painful.”

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@rcraverWSJ

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